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Nick and Patricia

Nick and Patricia

Patricia Cairus
“Our first night in the shelter at Housing Hope, I sat in the living room, alone in the dark for a long time. Nick and our son, who was 2 at the time, had gone to bed, and I just sat on the little futon that came with the apartment and stared around the room. It was the first time in a few years we had a place of our own. I could not believe we had our own space to live. I felt like it was the first time I could breathe after years of holding my breath while couch surfing and being on waitlists for housing. I cried knowing that we would finally be able to put up a Christmas tree again for our son and that we now had a safe place for him to live.

The Christmas party that Housing Hope put together for the tenants made us feel like we mattered. They had stockings for the kids and even gift cards for the adults. We used our cards to buy groceries and kids’ clothes. We will never forget this event.

Homelessness started for us when the recession hit in 2008-2009, right after we got married. I was working as a bank teller, and it was nearly impossible for Nick to hold onto his line of work in HVAC. After not being able to find work for several months (we needed both incomes to make it), we lost our rental, and our vehicles were slated to be repossessed. It was a very dark time. We knew this situation was not who we were. We decided to relocate to the east side of the state to live with family with the promise of Nick finding work.

While in Spokane, I became pregnant and terribly ill with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe vomiting brought on by pregnancy) making finding work or continuing my education impossible. Things were so bad; Nick was even donating plasma to afford gas and still not finding stable work. After our first son was born, we realized we were no better off. We returned to western Washington and applied for housing with Housing Hope while continuing to look for work and bouncing around staying with friends or family.

When you are homeless and couch-surfing for shelter, people treat you differently. When you go in for a job and you cannot give the employer a firm address, they cast you in a different light. We were embarrassed by it. But we kept trying to find our way out of it and we eventually did by getting housing with Housing Hope.” - Patricia

“When we got housing, it lifted us up to start thinking about our long-term plans for work and income. I was stubborn about taking the classes Housing Hope offered us on budgeting and money management. Patricia encouraged me to go, and we made it into a “date night” because we had no other funds to have any kind of social life. To this day, I still use the budget tools that we learned about in those classes.

Eventually, I was able to find stable work and affordable daycare, so Patricia could return to school (with the interruption of baby #2).We could not have done this without the support of Cathy, Housing Hope’s

After all we went through and learned along the way, we now have our own home. Patricia earned her bachelor’s degree which helped us launch our own HVAC business located in downtown Stanwood, called FastTrack HVAC ( With my HVAC technical experience and industry certifications, combined with Patricia’s business skills, we were able to leverage COVID-19 stimulus money to help us start this new business and start a new chapter. I love being in the HVAC business, and we have many great plans for this company and our community.

Along with all our many expenses around our family and our business, we have a passion for including community giving in our budget spreadsheet. We’re giving back to support our community and neighbors like they did for us. Whether it is the foodbank, the local schools, youth sports, parks, other local businesses, or non-profit organizations; we want to be part of helping where there is a need.

We used to be embarrassed about our situation and now we want people to know about our story so they can be inspired and empowered that there is a way up and out.” - Nick

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